Chickens Changing Lives

Author: Meg Kauthen, Sustainability Designer

If you were living on $2 a day, what would you do to improve your life?

That’s the question millions of people ask themselves daily. One effective way is chickens. Chickens are fabulous: they’re inexpensive to house, breed and process, making them an economically viable protein source – but you need access to affordable feed.

As a result of urbanisation, economic growth and a change in consumption patterns in developing countries, the demand for eggs is projected to increase by 70% and poultry meat by 170% between 2010 and 2050 in developing countries (FAO 2015).

In Kenya, this is the conundrum people face – there is plenty of demand in the market but the cost of feed makes chicken farming cost prohibitive, especially when the economic risks are too high.

Business for Development put on their agronomic/economic thinking caps and looked at potential feed and breed options. We have a great partnership with Cotton On Group growing sustainable cotton in Kenya, so we partnered with Sydney University to ask the question, can the by-product of cotton be used in feed?

A ’magic’ formula was developed where farmers were asked to grow grains and pulses that could be mixed with cotton seed cake. These products on their own would fetch 10-20 cents per kilo, but when fed to a chicken, you get a bird that produces valuable eggs and a healthy high protein bird to sell or eat.

Chickens are small, typically stay close to home and are often regarded as a ‘woman’s’ animal, in contrast to larger livestock like cows.

Women are very entrepreneurial and when they see an opportunity to improve their families’ lives, they are focused on making the most of that opportunity. As a result, we have some women earning up to AU$2,000 more per annum. In the Cotton On Group cotton project, 60% of people participating in training are women. Women are also more likely to spend their additional income on their family’s health and education – causing a positive ripple effect in the community.

One grandmother proudly advised us that she can afford to give each of her grandchildren three eggs each week. Eggs are an excellent source of iron, protein, fat, Vitamins A, D, E, and B12 and choline. As a result, the program is improving food security in the region.

It is amazing how chickens are truly changing lives.

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